Here’s a rare feat: The top performing pack in this test is also the cheapest. “It has the comfort, stability, and support of packs twice its weight,” says one tester. “When I topped out on the rim after a long patrol, I didn’t have the urge to immediately ditch it like some packs.” Besides price, here are the numbers that matter: It carries up to 35 pounds, has the capacity for five days of supplies, and weighs less than two pounds. Key feature: the pliable backpanel, which is made of high-density closed-cell foam*.
The sheet flexes with the torso but is stiff enough to transfer pack weight to the hipbelt. The frameless design doesn’t have the rigid, supportive suspension of the heavier Osprey, but it provides more load control than the other superlight rucksacks in the test. “Carrying five liters of water was no problem,” says one ranger who loaded the Jam’s hydration sleeve with a three-liter bladder and placed bottles in the two mesh side holsters. The drawstring closure (no floating lid) has a nine-inch extension collar that allows overloading. Ranger bonus: The two hipbelt pouches are big enough for handcuffs (or snacks).
Durability ding: The mesh side pockets suffered a nickel-size hole and several more small tears after 20 days in the Canyon.
> Weight 1 lb. 14 oz.
> Capacity 50 liters
> Price $160
> Sizes 3 unisex (16-22.5 in.)
> Info golite.com
*High-density closed-cell: foam A versatile material that offers near-rigid support with cushioned comfort and flex